Story Article View

Balancing Economic Revitalization and a Sustainable Environment in one of the World’s Most Urbanized Estuaries

Army Corps of Engineers
Published July 6, 2012
The Army Corps of Engineers continues to restore marsh islands in Jamaica Bay as part of its environmental restoration principles

The Army Corps of Engineers continues to restore marsh islands in Jamaica Bay as part of its environmental restoration principles

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District and its regional partners are actively committed to achieving the vision of a “World Class Harbor Estuary."


This vision balances the economic revitalization of the Port of New York and New Jersey with ecosystem restoration and critical infrastructure protection.


Over the past 15 years, the District and The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have deepened more than 35 miles of shipping channels to accommodate the large container ships that dominate worldwide shipping today. These improvements will keep the Port of New York and New Jersey competitive and viable, particularly with the expansion of the Panama Canal scheduled to be completed by 2014.


The Port of New York and New Jersey is a key regional and national economic engine providing about 280,000 total jobs in NY and NJ, nearly $11.6 billion in personal income, more than $37.1 billion in business income and almost $5.2 billion in tax revenues while serving 35 percent of the U.S. population.   


To date, the NY/NJ Harbor Deepening Project has beneficially used more than 60 million cubic yards of sediment, which includes constructing over 100 acres of tidal marsh, establishing offshore reefs, nourishing beaches, capping landfills and Brownfields, and capping the Dredged Material Historic Area Remediation Site (HARS) off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey.


As the Project nears completion in 2014, over 3.6 million cubic yards of high quality sand are being dredged from Ambrose Channel, which will provide the 50-ft pathway from the ocean to Port Elizabeth and Newark by December 2012.  


Maximizing the beneficial use of dredged material has been the policy at the New York District, since the inception of the Harbor Deepening Project. 


A recent New York District effort - the NY&NJ Harbor /Jamaica Bay Multi-Project Initiative - exemplifies this policy in the effort to use as much of the sand dredged to remediate, restore and protect the harbor estuary. 


This Initiative represents an innovative business approach consistent with the goals of the Army Corps’ Civil Works Transformation, utilizing integrated water resource management, collaboration and partnering to meet the challenges of federal and local constrained budgets, critical infrastructure needs and the societal goal of ecosystem restoration.  


The goal was to utilize dredged material from both the Harbor Deepening Project’s Ambrose Channel and the Operation and Maintenance of the Jamaica Bay, New York Federal Navigation Channel to: advance three critical marsh island restoration projects in Jamaica Bay to restore more than 75 acres of wetlands; stabilize the shoreline at Plumb Beach, New York to protect the essential transportation infrastructure of the Belt Parkway and sewer infrastructure; cap and close the Newark Bay Confined Disposal Facility in New Jersey; and cap the HARS.


The integration of these individual programs and projects leverages authorizations and funding sources while reducing costs during construction and saving tax payers dollars (e.g., reduced mobilization costs and sharing of sand placement/pipeline infrastructure).  In addition, ecological and regional benefits are maximized from marsh island restoration and the creation of coastal wetlands which help stabilize and protect the shoreline, provide important habitat and improve water and sediment quality. 


“The Army Corps has a strong commitment along with our partners and stakeholders to restore critical habitat within Jamaica Bay, maintain the ecological integrity of the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary, with the economic benefits of deepening the Port of New York and New Jersey,” said Col. John R. Boulé II, the Army Corps’ New York District Commander.  The region continues to work together to achieve our vision of a “World Class Harbor Estuary” for future generations.


The District will continue to work with its dredging contractors and partners to capture additional opportunities to beneficially use sand from Ambrose Channel and the Jamaica Bay Federal Navigation Channel and continue advancing additional restoration opportunities throughout the estuary while saving new mobilization costs for equipment prior to project completion. 


The success of this beneficial use initiative is due to strong partnerships and consensus goals within the region.  These strong partnerships and the steadfast commitment of many federal, state and local partners resulted in efficient coordination to develop complex plans and specifications, approval of technical reports, execution of funding agreements, secure federal and non-federal funds and issuance of permits.


The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York City Department of Environmental Protection and New York City Department of Parks & Recreation provided significant non-federal funds serving as non-federal sponsors.  Other important partners include the National Park Service, NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program, National Resources Conservation Service and many other stakeholders. 


Regional partnerships within the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary are fundamental to advancing restoration at a time when funding is limited.  The leveraging of non-federal funds has resulted in the implementation of key priority projects for the region outlined in the USACE Hudson-Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CRP), the Department of Interior Secretary Salazar’s and New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg’s joint strategy to restore Jamaica Bay, NYC’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, NYC Vision 2020 and PlaNYC.  Furthermore, this initiative advances many restoration targets and goals outlined in the CRP, which when implemented, will advance the region’s vision of a “World Class Harbor Estuary.”